The clams fall under phylum Mollusca (aka ‘The Mollusks’), class Bivalvia (aka ‘The Bivalves!’) and have no head, no legs, no thumbs, and no anything very noteworthy, except a simple digestive tract and a small heart to power it (though via an open circulatory system, so let’s not go nuts about that ‘heart’). In short, the clam is a mouth and an anus with a faint pulse that lives in a shell. Even so, many people like to pair clams with sauvignon blanc.
Phylum Mollusca, class Bivalvia, as viewed from the top of the food chain.
When they’re not being delicious, clams serve a bigger purpose that often goes unnoticed. They give us perspective.
There is one clam in particular that best illustrates this point. A clam named Ming. To understand Ming the Clam is to know all clams. Not that you really care to, but let’s assume you do. And then we’ll go from there.
The epic story of Ming the Clam ended abruptly in October of 2007, when researchers working off the coast of Iceland found him in their dredge nets and estimated he was, get this, between 405 to 410 years of age. Ming the Clam is the oldest living creature ever discovered on Earth*. This the researchers could tell only after they killed Ming and counted the growth rings on his shell. Science is funny sometimes.
In any event, this was one anus wrapped in calcium carbonate that had surely seen some things.
In fact, Ming was alive towards the tail end of the Ming Dynasty in China (hence the name). He was around when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Ming the Clam was here when Galileo Galilei peered into his telescope and said, ‘Uh…dudes? Somebody take the geocentric model out of the foyer.’ This clam witnessed the first spark of electricity, the birth of computers, and he was around when a crack team of American geeks put robots on the planet Mars and cried on television.
While all of this madness was happening topside, Ming the Clam sat on the frigid ocean floor near Iceland, silently filter-feeding at his entry-level filtering job. He didn’t have a desk, didn’t get a paycheck. Nor did he take a day off to drive up to wine country for a long weekend. Nope, Ming just worked and worked and worked at the plankton. Day in and day out.
August 6, 1951. Ming takes a five-minute smoke break. Moments later, he returned to the sea and got reprimanded.
Okay, so Ming was an old clam with a boring existence. You get it. But imagine: 400 plus years of going to work at a mindless filtering gig and never once getting any recognition whatsoever. Not even a certificate of merit, a most-improved trophy, bivalve of the month, or any of those acknowledgements that make you feel a little appreciated and, at the same time, a little sad to win them.
Not even a simple token appreciation.
Without a word of encouragement, Ming filtered on for centuries. In the end, all he received for his years of grueling labor was a one-way ride to the surface and a fine welcome from a shucking tool on the deck of a filthy research vessel. As Ming would say, ‘Thanks for the memories.’
To this, giant clams nod their non-existent heads in empathy. With an average lifespan of 100 years and a job harboring photosynthetic algae, they know more than anyone what it is to live long, unfulfilling lives, however record-setting they may be.
The lesson in all of this is simple: Ming the Clam might never have come out of his shell (except when he was ripped from said shell; see above), but even Ming’s apparent life of quiet desperation can make us feel better about ourselves. For we too may be underappreciated at work. At times, we may even believe our careers are stagnant and devoid of meaning. But, thanks to clams, we can at least take some comfort in the fact we won’t be sitting in the same cubicle in the year 2398. Happy as a clam? Surely, we can do better than that.
In closing, clams should be rewarded for such a valuable demonstration. This added to the fact they’re quite tasty in garlic and butter earn them the acknowledgement they so desperately deserve – a passing grade. Congratulations, clams.
* According to Telegraph.co.uk, Ming was about 31 years older than the last animal thought to hold the world age record – another clam. Go figure.